Stein, Murray B. Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders Research Program, University of California, La Jolla, California.
Last reviewed:May 2020
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An intense irrational fear that often leads to avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias (or phobic disorders) are common and persistent anxiety disorders that usually begin in childhood or adolescence. Psychiatric nomenclature refers to phobias of specific places, objects, or situations as specific phobias (for example, fear of spiders, or arachnophobia; and fear of heights, or acrophobia) [Fig. 1]. About one in two individuals report that they are afraid of public speaking; in very severe cases, this is considered a form of social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia). Social anxiety disorders also include other kinds of performance fears (such as playing a musical instrument in front of others, or signing a check while observed) and social interactional fears (for example, talking to people in authority, asking someone out for a date, or returning items to a store). Individuals who suffer from social anxiety disorder often fear a number of social situations. See also: Anxiety disorders
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